Experiencing intimacy with the outdoors

Many people who spend a lot of time outside will tell you their favourite outdoor memories are those when the elements took charge. Those wet to the skin, fell in a bog, blown over by the wind moments stay with us because they have an immediate and very physical impact.

It could be argued it is the sense of adventure resulting from these experiences that makes them memorable but I think our response has an even deeper meaning than this. When the weather or circumstances take charge, we experience an intimacy with the outdoors that we don’t necessarily feel during a sunny walk.

This intimacy can also come from more planned experiences. Outdoor swimming is a good example. With minimal clothing and full immersion, swimmers have intimate contact with the element of water. Sleeping under the stars (or clouds) in a bivvy bag has a similar effect. Drops of rain on your face, the instant visual impact of the night sky, or even slugs up the nose all bring us into contact with nature in a personal and almost visceral way.

So do we need this intimacy? Does it contribute to our wellbeing? I think so. You only have to watch young children play outdoors to see how much joy puddle splashes, rolling down a hill, or throwing water around bring. As adults, we have perhaps lost some of this joy. Maybe its time we all sought to get it back again.